The cuckoo bird is one of the most studied birds by ethology, a science that collects and analyzes information about the animal compartment. The system of parasitism of nests for which the cuckoo bird is known worldwide, has allowed studies on adaptations and counter-adaptations, both of the cuckoo itself, and of the birds that act as hosts. This surprising custom of the cuckoo bird is inherited in the new individuals of the species, maintaining the habit of laying eggs in foreign nests so that feeding and chick growth are successful.
Cuckoo bird – general characteristics
The cuckoo bird, or cuckoo, is the common name for the bird Cuculus canorus , belonging to the Cucúlida family. Among the main characteristics of the cuckoo or cuckoo , a really curious bird, the following stand out:
- Size and plumage: adult individuals measure approximately 25 cm. As in other species of birds, the plumage marks the sexual dimorphism that exists between male and female cuckoos, the plumage of the males being coppery and greyish brown in the upper part, while the lower part is light gray, and in females, mainly gray. Meet 25 feathered animals in this other post.
- Food: the cuckoo bird’s diet is mainly insectivorous, although they sometimes also hunt small amphibians and sometimes even consume the eggs of other smaller birds, the latter being the feeding strategy of adult male individuals.
- Song: cuckoos have great communication skills, their characteristic “cú-cús” being one of the best-known songs in ornithology. Discover here 13 birds that sing , including these curious birds called cuckoos.
- Migration: although the cuckoo bird spends most of its life cycle in cold and temperate forests of Europe and Asia, when very unfavorable environmental conditions arrive, they undertake long migration routes towards the warm African continent. Learn more about migratory birds: characteristics, names and photos here.
- Parasitizes the nests of other birds: related to its amazing intelligence, the most prominent characteristic of the cuckoo bird is the habit of females of the species of laying their eggs in the nests of other bird species, that is, their habit of parasitizing nests. making use of aggressive mimicry .
To better understand the curious habit of nest parasitism that characterizes the cuckoo bird, it is important to note that this habit corresponds to an intrinsic behavior of the species, which has developed due to various causes related to the incubation time of the cuckoo bird .
It stands out, for example, that the egg-laying time of the female usually varies between two or three days. In addition, the fact that the females take about 5 days to form embryos in their ovaries is added, so that there would be time lapses without incubation and chick rearing at different times in the nest of the cuckoos . These prolonged periods have negative effects on the migration of cuckoos, as they would depend on completing the incubation of the eggs and caring for their young before embarking on their long migratory journeys.
How long does the cuckoo egg hatch?
The optimal incubation time for cuckoo eggs is always shorter than that of the birds chosen as hosts, so that the cuckoo chick hatches before the rest of the eggs present in the host nest. In this way, after hatching, the cuckoo chick is guaranteed to be fed and fully protected by its adoptive mother , thus facilitating its rapid growth. Later, approximately 10 days after its birth, the cuckoo chick will choose to move and remove the new chicks from the nestthat they come out of their shells, so that they will continue to be the only one to have the food and care of the adoptive mother, who is not able to recognize the cuckoo chick as a stranger or invader, and takes care of it as if it were a chick his , that is to say, of his own laying of eggs.
From this amazing habit, adult cuckoos have obtained double advantages: on the one hand, being able to migrate quickly without depending on the care of their eggs and young and, on the other hand, allowing a quick and energetic development of the young thanks to parental care. forced adoptive.
To know where the cuckoo bird lives , we must cover the entire migration area of the bird, thus determining its presence in Europe, Asia and Africa. They mainly choose temperate and tropical regions , their preferred habitats being wooded environments or dense thickets , in which they can easily find the nests of birds that they will parasite with when they lay their eggs.
For this reason they are also often elusive birds and difficult to observe, since the density of the forests and bushes makes it very difficult to see cuckoo specimens in their natural habitat. However, its characteristic songs and calls can be easily appreciated.
At present, the cuckoo or cuckoo bird, has great stability and diversification in terms of its presence in the different habitats in which it grows and reproduces, the main reason for said stability being its strategy of parasitism of nests .